20 Things Students Say That Drive Me To Drink, Make Me Long to Smack Them Over the Head With Heavy Objets d’art, Urge Me to Slide My Feet Off the Proverbial Ledge and Jump, and Cause Me to Regret Sacrificing My Youth and Three Dress Sizes to School Scores of Ungrateful Wretches

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1.–“As long as the grammar is correct, you don’t care what I say, right?”

2.–“I didn’t know you were so serious about deadlines.”

3.–“Sorry I was absent. I’ll come by your office so you can catch me up.”

4.–“I didn’t think anybody used apostrophes anymore.”

5.–“Why can’t my thesis be a fact?”

6.–“How many paragraphs do I need to make an A?”

7.–“All my high school teachers thought my writing was great!”

8.–“Are you telling me I can’t turn in a short story for my essay assignment?”

9.–“What do you mean I will fail with ‘perfectly punctuated nonsense’ as easily as content that is ‘incoherent’ due to a ‘numerous grammatical and mechanical errors’?”

10.—“Were you talking about me when you said: ‘The ability to distinguish run-ons and sentence fragments is a basic test of literacy in our society’?”

11.–“I didn’t think you’d care about punctuation in the rough draft.”

12.–“I was going to add my research to the final draft.”

13.–“Why do you write notes in the margins of my paper like: ‘Good grief!’ ‘Really???’ ‘Lord, help you,’ ‘Oh, please,’ and ‘Have you lost your mind?’ when I make teeny-tiny mistakes with words like:  its/it’s, everyday/every day, and  compliment/complement?”

14.–“Why do you make such a big deal about MLA format?”

15.–“Why are you so obsessed with handbooks?”

16.–“Sorry I missed class. I was busy finishing my essay.”

17.–“Are you saying I can’t turn in a one-paragraph essay?”

18.–“I made an A in creative writing!”

19.–“What do you mean spoken English is different than written English? Texting is writing; isn’t it?”

20.–“Are you this mean to your own kids?”

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Construction-Paper Hearts

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I love Valentine’s Day. I love every single thing about it. I love the romance of it. I love that the holiday excludes extended family members. I love that it doesn’t require decorations. I love that I don’t have to spend big money on my valentine (although if you can do so without eating chicken noodle soup for a month, and you are so inclined, then don’t let me stand in the way of any jewelry purchases.) I love that you never really know who will send you a valentine—the boy you dated in college, your eighty-year-old father, or your five-year-old piano student. Little surprises are my favorite.

I can’t tell you how disgusted I feel when I hear a man say he can’t think of anything to do for his one, true love on Valentine’s Day. Baloney. Can’t be bothered is more like it. I can think of dozens of things ANYONE can do. For example, if you want to steer around crowded restaurants filled with smooching couples, or you wisely wish to avoid another charge on your credit card, pick up an inexpensive bottle of wine and a take-away appetizer on your way home from work. I think there is something particularly festive about Chinese food, something to do with the boxes, maybe, but it could also be the chopsticks or the fortune cookies. However, since I won’t be there, get whatever works for the two of you. Set the stage for a romantic picnic in your own home—NOT the kitchen table or anywhere else you normally eat. Spread a tablecloth or blanket on the floor. Avoid the kids’ sheets with Disney characters splashed across them. Buzz Lightyear is not going to set the mood you are looking for. Light a candle. (Men: Look in the drawer with the flashlight, batteries, and matches. Find the candles without asking your wife where she keeps them, which is a real buzz-kill.) Use a piece of your wedding china to plate the appetizer and two crystal goblets. (They’re in the china cabinet in the dining room, not in the kitchen with the coffee mugs.) Blindfold your wife. Lead her to your romantic nook. She’ll be impressed. I promise. Total financial outlay: less than twenty bucks if you don’t get carried away in the wine store.

You could also ask your wife to meet you for lunch at a favorite spot or somewhere new and exotic. Stop along the way to buy flowers from a street vendor like you are a character in a romantic comedy. Fill up her arms with blossoms. Every time you hand her a flower, pay her a compliment to go with it. You might say, “Lilies—the first flowers I ever sent you,” or “Red roses—remember the ones on our honeymoon?” A girl can get drunk on compliments. If you can’t think of any compliments, make some up. This is as good a time to use your imagination for something more than the possibilities for the final-four bracket in college basketball.

If you are on a budget, stop by the library, and check out your wife’s favorite romantic movie. Watch it with her. Pretend that you like it, too. You could also write a poem for your wife. WAIT! COME BACK! It doesn’t have to be original. You can check out a volume of poetry at the same library where you got the movie. (Yes, your library card can actually be used for books as well as movies.) A little too uptown for your taste? Think about song lyrics if that makes it easier for you. I never met a man in my life who didn’t think he could write a great song. It doesn’t have to rhyme. You could write a haiku. Short and sweet. Heck, you could write a funny limerick. Give yourself extra points for dirty words. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Lighten up. Have some fun with it. Write your poem on a paper heart you cut out yourself. Sign it. Put it in an envelope with your valentine’s name on it. I guarantee you that extra points will be awarded for effort.

I especially love that Valentine’s Day is the one day in the entire year when everybody else seems inclined to eat as much chocolate as I do on a regular basis. This holiday is a guilt-free, chocolate-eating-free-for-all, and that is absolution bound to make me sweetly disposed toward others. If you can afford it, go for elaborately wrapped, expensive chocolate, but remember that you can get the same result if you go to the drugstore and load up a bag with every candy bar your wife enjoys most. Show you’ve been paying attention to her candy preferences over the years, and she will remember why she fell in love with you. For example, if you know your wife is partial to Almond Joy candy bars even though she hates almonds, have a bag of Almond Joys all ready for her with the almonds already sucked off. She will know you are, indeed, her soul mate.

Homemade valentine cards are the best thing about Valentine’s Day. I keep the valentines my children made for me when they were preschoolers in a box under my bed, and when I get the urge to have DNA tests performed on them to see if they are, indeed, the same children I gave birth to years ago, the squiggly writing and shakily drawn hearts remind me of the years when my children thought I was the most extraordinary human on the planet. Now, of course, they look at me like I have three heads, leprosy, or like a guest who accidentally burps in the middle of a wedding.

Best of all, I love that on Valentine’s Day, my husband always gives me a romantic card that makes me feel loved—even if I was cheerfully thinking of divorcing him a scant twenty-fours hours before. He has never forgotten Valentine’s Day. That might be the reason we’ve been married for so many of them. Sometimes we were broke on Valentine’s Day, sometimes not. It never mattered. As I tell my sons, a single flower or one beautifully wrapped chocolate says the same thing as a dozen.

Even the history of St. Valentine is romantic. Theological scholars don’t know that much about him, but I like the theory that he helped persecuted Christians wed in secret. Maybe if he’d done a little matchmaking for the emperor, he could have kept his head. Of course, then he wouldn’t have been a saint. The suffering and traumatic denouement are requirements for sainthood. My family will tell you that I have a “thing” for saints. If you don’t know your saints, I urge you to do some reading in this area. Saints’ lives are colorful, to say the least. You don’t make it to sainthood by living a boring life. Passion. Dedication. Romance. The saints have all that in spades. Little warning: It never ends well.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. There’s nothing you can say about Valentine’s Day that will make me change my mind. Of course, I realize it’s a made-up holiday. I know it’s a rainmaker for florists and greeting-card vendors. The thing is: I don’t care. I understand that many people see Valentine’s Day as the cliché of all clichés. I just don’t think a cliché is anything to be ashamed of.

I promise you that a construction-paper valentine, cut out with kitchen scissors, with a romantic sentiment scrawled across it in a man’s own handwriting, is one of the most romantic gestures I know. Even now, a homemade valentine makes me wish I carried cloth hankies in my handbag every day instead of just for funerals. I hate having to wipe away sentimental tears with paper napkins that say Pizza Hut on them. It cheapens the moment.

The thing about clichés is that they got to be clichés by appealing to a large demographic. I’m not one bit embarrassed about being a member of the Valentine’s Day fan club. I say we women should stop apologizing for having a soft spot for this holiday. While I’m confessing, let me just go ahead and say that I also love bubble baths, milk chocolate, the occasional trashy novel, and shopping for fun. Is that so wrong? Why are simple pleasures the subject of such ridicule? Pure snobbery, I think.

Every woman in the world, from age twelve or so until senility, is looking for romance, yearning for it, actually, in everyday life. Sadly, it is very rare. It takes so little effort, time, or money, really, for men to be romantic. Sure, Valentine’s Day puts the pressure on publicly, but we all know a few men out there who need a jumpstart, men who say, “What? Is it Valentine’s Day already? Didn’t I just buy you a Christmas present?” A man who says that is not, I repeat not, what we are looking for in any way, shape, or form.

What we want is the Cinderella ending. It’s a long shot. Real life interrupts good intentions, lifelong promises, and heartfelt pledges of eternal love. Every grown-up woman knows that. To all you men out there, I say: If you’ve never made a big romantic gesture in your life, this is the one day of the year when it would not seem corny. On February 14th, every woman you know—old, young, fat, skinny, married, single, divorced, sweet, or mean as a cottonmouth—EVERY woman checks the mail carefully for a valentine with her name on the envelope. She answers the door with a fast-beating heart, hoping for a blossom or two, and she checks under her pillow, on the kitchen table, in her car, and in your coat pocket to see if there is a small surprise there for her from you.

*Want more? This is an excerpt from my third book, I Love You–Now Hush. Check it out! 

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10 Ways To Use Chocolate For Good

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1. You can combine chocolate consumption with other pleasures. For example, you can eat chocolate while shopping for shoes. Life does not get any better than that.

2. You can eat chocolate while you are waiting for a handsome man to send you a text message, email, voice mail, or shares in his stock portfolio–whatever.

3. You can eat chocolate while you peruse your divorce papers. It won’t change anything, of course, but it can’t hurt anything either.

4. You can eat chocolate while waiting for the timer to go off when you are coloring your hair. Usually, those minutes are just wasted.

5. You can reward yourself with chocolate for exercising when you felt like doing something (anything) else instead.

6. You can eat chocolate as a substitute for dinner. It’s a proven fact that chocolate will make you much happier than lima beans.

7. You can use chocolate to bribe children to practice their math facts, write their thank-you notes, finish their music theory, or to perform other odious tasks.

8. You can eat chocolate as a form of social protest against the media’s love affair with anorexic-looking models.

9. You can purchase gourmet chocolate as a luxury item to help stimulate the economy. It’s practically patriotic.

10. You can use chocolate to sooth the savage beast within you and prevent you from causing bodily harm to the tiny humans you gave birth to.

Laughing yet? Want more? This list is an excerpt from my 3rd book, I Love You–Now Hush. Visit a bookstore near you, order online, or download it today!

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Straight From The Mouths of Teenage Drivers

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  1. “I’m not speeding! I’m going exactly the speed limit.”
  2. “That dent was already there!”
  3. “I’m not too close.”
  4. “That car needs to stay out of my lane.”
  5. “I know what to do. You told me that a hundred times already.”
  6. “I did come to a complete stop.”
  7. “This is harder than it looks.”
  8. “Wow. That was close!”
  9.  “Merging is hard.”
  10.  “I forgot about crosswalks.”
  11. “I’m never going to parallel-park, so I don’t need to practice that.”
  12. “You don’t have to yell at me!”
  13. “Sorry. Is that expensive to fix?”
  14. “I drove well this time; didn’t I, Mom? You didn’t throw up once!”

Posting this excerpt from my last book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers, as I teach my third child to drive this week. It’s like labor and delivery, one forgets. . . .

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A Southern Woman’s New Year’s Resolutions

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  1. I will exercise every day. (As long as my favorite exercise outfit is clean, my best friend is free to exercise with me, and I don’t have to take another shower.)
  2. I will eat only healthy foods. (As long as they are covered in chocolate.)
  3. I will improve myself in some way every month. (Provided I do not have to read any self-help books, go to any counseling sessions, watch any instructional videos, or listen to smug, skinny, well-adjusted salespeople.)
  4. I will separate myself from negative people. (Is this child abandonment?)
  5. I will read the books I didn’t get to last year. (As long as someone else can do my work, wash clothes, run errands, and take care of my children.)
  6. I will prioritize my life. (I will not spend half a day making homemade cupcakes for children who will lick the icing off and throw the cupcake away.)
  7. I will spend more time with my dearest friends. (Instead of listening to mere acquaintances blather on about their ex-husbands.)
  8. I will plant an herb garden. (As long as I don’t have to water it or fertilize it or anything like that.)
  9. I will find one good thing in every person I meet. (Even if I have to admire someone’s handwriting.)
  10. I will be kind to animals. (Even if I hold up rush hour traffic for a tortoise.)
  11. I will encourage my friends in every new venture. (Even if it is a totally ridiculous idea, and everyone knows it.)
  12. I will be more adventurous. (I will run with scissors and gas up the car after the warning light comes on rather than with half a tank.)
  13. I will try a new hairstyle. (Surely there is some style out there that screams: “There is a woman in here underneath the mom attire!”)
  14. I will clean out my attic. (And stop pretending my husband will ever get to that.)
  15. I will balance my checkbook properly. (How hard can three-digit subtraction be?)
  16. I will be more tolerant of other people’s views. (Even if they are obviously uninformed idiots.)
  17. I will spend more time having fun. (And less time feeling guilty about that.)

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The Christmas Greenery Thief

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Here’s a chuckle for your first week in December. I didn’t make up one word. I swear. I didn’t have to. Humor writing is a rich well in the South, let me tell you.

Today is pick-up day for holiday greenery at the Botanical Gardens in the city where I live. When I arrived, the usual hustle and bustle was in full swing. In no time, my arms were too full to see over my foliage, so I placed my selections in a pile and began scoping out the rest of the aisle.

Imagine how shocked I was when a fellow shopper whisked my pile of bodacious greenery into her arms and headed for the checkout counter at a gallop, leaving me standing in her wake with my mouth hanging open.

“I’m so sorry,” I called out to her (because I’m a Southern woman, and we often begin our sentences that way whether we’re taking responsibility for monsoon rains a continent away or starving children in North Korea) “I think you’ve mistakenly nabbed my greenery!” I smiled warmly at her in a we-are-the-world-peace-love-and-joy way.

“Oh, I know, honey,” she responded with a teeth-whitened-to-blinding-smile thrown over her shoulder, “you’ve picked out some really good stuff here, but I am in a big hurry. You can get some more!”

As often happens when confronted with bad manners, I was temporarily immobilized. I blinked in confusion in an effort to process the hard-to-believe display of bad manners unfolding before my very eyes.

I began a number of responses, none of which actually made it out of my mouth:

“Of all the nerve. . . ”
“Did that woman just steal my greenery?”
“Where was that woman raised?”
“Who does that?”

I was at a loss for words. That almost never happens. Luckily, I was surrounded by a group of women, none of whom I knew, who were riled in my stead in a rather touching demonstration of sisterhood, I think. Yes, indeed, there were witnesses who found plenty of words to describe the Christmas greenery thief. It’s quite possible that the woman next to me got a good photo of the naughty one with her cell phone camera.

It took about two seconds for me to break down into one giggling hot mess. There was something about the sheer nerve of her move that cracked me up. I had to sit down and gather myself among the Poinsettias for a few minutes before beginning my second session of hunting and gathering.

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Goldilocks and the Three Chairs

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I’ve never owned a decent office chair, but I never lost any sleep over it either. In fact, I had no idea how many chair options there are out there. My goodness! Desk chairs are an industry unto themselves! Who knew?

I’ll tell you who knew: Mr. Bob Lindsey. He owns Lindsey Office Furnishings in Birmingham, AL, where I spent hours poking around for treasures this week. You should, too. I did my chair shopping with the big cheese himself, Mr. Lindsey. The result: My fanny is sitting pretty today!

My last office chair cost me ten bucks at a yard sale. That seemed about right since I don’t have a real office—with walls, a door, privacy, no screaming children, no pets, and, most importantly, QUIET—which would justify a big, imposing, throne-like chair, but I never worried about it. I’m a mom. Compromise, making-do, and lowering expectations are the norm. My office is a corner in my bedroom.

Now that I know what’s out there, however, I’m rethinking my lot in life. Those high-tech thrones look pretty good—like they could launch a cruise missile with the touch of a button. Just between you and me, I’ve always thought I’d look pretty good perched on a throne wearing a tiara.

Southern women like me have an innate fondness for tiaras. I wouldn’t mind adding a scepter to that office throne package, which would be handy for whacking those in my life who need a come-to-Jesus-and-mind-your-mama tap on the shoulder.

These days, I value comfort and practicality over my long-time love affair with antiques, so I was up for a chair adventure, and I planned to upgrade.

My husband went with me to pick out a chair. We found one quickly, which is often the case when my husband accompanies me on a shopping trip. He’s not an ambler. Sadly, once I got home with my purchase, the chair I chose refused to move up and down as promised, so I had to return it and start over.

More shopping is not a hardship for me. I met Mr. Lindsey with my return just as he was crossing the street to return to his office with takeout. Since I am a well-mannered Southern woman, I encouraged him to go ahead and eat. I was happy to wait. Of course, Mr. Lindsey, being old school and rather well-mannered himself, merely rolled his eyes and went to work to find me another chair that would “make me happy.”

I don’t know that there is one thing on earth a Southern man can do that is better than saying he is going to “make me happy.”

Guess what? He did. I dragged him down every aisle, room after room. I sat in every chair that was remotely appealing. It was Goldilocks and the three (hundred) chairs day. Nothing seemed right. Every chair was too tall, too short, too modern, too old, too office-y, too hard, too soft, too ugly, too clinical, or too something-or-other I couldn’t quite articulate.

Did Mr. Lindsey get impatient with me? No, he did not! I’m sure he felt like showing me the door, but he didn’t. He didn’t look to the Heavens for help or pressure me to JUST PICK ONE ALREADY!

I admire him for that.

Finally, I squished myself into a tiny bit of leathery heaven. Chair nirvana. I found the perfect chair. Angels sang. Cathedral bells rang. This chair has all the bells and whistles. It could have been tailor-made for me.

“This is THE ONE!” I screeched with glee, “Is this chair in my price range?” I asked Mr. Lindsey.

“It doesn’t matter. Let’s load it up,” he replied instantly, as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

I’m fairly certain that Mr. Lindsey gave me a whopping good deal on my office chair. I don’t know for sure because he never showed me the price. He spent at least two hours with me, so I may have actually been a losing-money sale for him. I was in no hurry at all to conclude our purchase. Mr. Lindsey is a fun guy. He tells great stories. He actually met Clint Eastwood and ended up spending the afternoon and evening with him. He’s that kind of guy. Likable. Also, he drove me around in a golf cart to look at chairs. How fun is that???

I love my new chair, and I’m pretty fond of Bob Lindsey now, too. Like most women I know, I’m a big fan of good service, business executives who stand behind their merchandise, and people whose word is their bond.

Thanks, Mr. Lindsey!

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